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Contemplation / Zufferey

Release Date: 07/31/2012 
Label:  Bee Jazz   Catalog #: BEE052  
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CONTEMPLATION Gabriel Zufferey (pn) BEE JAZZ 052 (55:55)

This is one of those discs that fall under the category “pleasant surprise.” On paper, it looks good: a combination of jazz classics, new pieces, and a couple of jazz-classical hybrids played by a young and (to me) unknown pianist. Then you open the CD, and discover that, in place of liner notes, you get a fold-out poster (suitable for framing?) of a black-and-white ink drawing of a bleak mountain beside an equally bleak seascape. Oh, brother. I hope this isn’t one of those “light Read more jazz” CDs.

But then you put on the actual disc, and you realize that it’s going to be all right. Gabriel Zufferey, it seems, is a young French jazz pianist who is particularly locked into a relaxed but somewhat avant-garde style of improvisation. In his hands, Paul Desmond’s Take Five emerges with its familiar rocking beat but with its equally familiar melodic line skewed, pushed about, broken into small pieces, then reconstructed in Zufferey’s own way. The best description I can give of his playing is that it is like a minimalist version of Lennie Tristano, except that Tristano never played the inside strings of the piano the way Zufferey does on his own Underside . Zufferey provides similar deconstructionist musical views of Miles Davis’s Nardis , Richard Rodgers’s My Funny Valentine , Chick Corea’s Armando’s Rhumba , Thelonious Monk’s Trinkle Tinkle , and even Duke Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood.

Zufferey’s lone fault as a jazz musician is that he does not swing. One wonders, however, if that was exactly his intent on this disc, since the tendency to swing would immediately distract one from the depth of his improvisations and focus on the beat. Such a style might also damage the feeling of contemplation that the disc is trying to convey. Nevertheless, there is so little on this disc that is predictable or routine that one remains mesmerized from start to finish by Zufferey’s absolute command of his musical material.

Judging by this disc, the sky’s the limit for this startling young talent. One hopes to hear him in numerous situations with various accompanying musicians in the future.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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